Review: Blu Life One X2 Mini
Mar 17, 2017, 5:00 AM by Eric M. Zeman
This inexpensive, unlocked Android smartphone is smaller than its predecessor and yet better in many ways. The Blu Life One X2 Mini is a fine little phone for those who prefer or need to change networks often. It runs Marshmallow and manages to include a 5-inch, full HD screen, Snapdragon processor, and 13-megapixel camera for less than two Benjamins. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth review.
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Is It Your Type?
The Blu Life One X2 Mini is a smaller, slightly less-expensive version of the One X2. It also reins in the specs a bit, but not enough to impact performance in an overly negative way. The One X2 Mini is a low-cost Android handset that aims high with a stylish design and premium features. If you prefer cheap, unlocked smartphones, it's another option to weigh.
Blu did an admirable job bringing a metal-and-glass design to the One X2 Mini, which is almost indistinguishable, visually, from its larger brother. The Mini is a compact handset that merges classy looks with mid-range specs. It could easily be mistaken for a more expensive handset.
Black or white glass forms the front surface of the X2 Mini and it's curved very slightly along the edges to help smooth out how it feels. The rear of the phone is made from a metal shell that wraps around and forms the side edges. It comes in dark gray, gold, or rose gold with a matte finish that I rather like. Shiny, reflective bands run from side-to-side across the top and bottom edges. These bands separate the metal portion of the rear shell from plastic end caps. The plastic is color-matched to the metal fairly well. Other metal accents help break up the front and back surfaces. Overall, the X2 Mini has a conservative, upscale design. It's definitely stylish enough for the club on a Saturday night.
The X2 Mini's 5.0-inch screen is just 0.2 inches smaller than that of the X2. The smaller diagonal helped Blu reduce the Mini's footprint a few millimeters in each dimension. It helps. To give you a frame of reference, the X2 Mini is about the exact same size as a Samsung Galaxy S7, or just slightly wider than an iPhone 7. I found the X2 Mini very easy to hold and use with one hand; the size and weight is really nice. People with smaller hands should find the X2 Mini comfortable to use for long periods of time. The phone will fit in most pockets without issue.
The phone feels much better to me than the original thanks to the rear panels, which decidedly feel like quality, solid metal. Moreover, the sharp edges I encountered on the original have been smoothed out. The result of these two changes is a much more enjoyable phone to hold and use. The glass panel on the front is quite nice. The X2 Mini is put together well. I found no gaps in the chassis or between panels. It's clearly manufactured with care.
Our X2 Mini review unit is rose gold, which comes with a white face. That means most of the functional elements stand out plainly; an LED flash, chrome earpiece grille, user-facing camera, and sensor module are all visible in the bezel above the screen. These elements would be harder to see on the dark gray model, which has black glass. The chrome-rimmed fingerprint sensor below the display is easy to spot. I'm surprised the accent is flashy silver and not rose gold like the rest of the phone's accents. Why the mismatch, Blu? The sensor doubles as a home button. Travel and feedback are just okay; it requires a lot of travel to get it to react. You can also set the button to act like a trackpad. (This feature is turned off by default.) There are no other buttons on the front, as the X2 Mini uses software controls for interacting with the user interface.
The side edges of the X2 Mini have a pleasing rounded profile. (The X2 Mini does away with the uncomfortably sharp lip of the X2.) The totally smooth shape is much more friendly to your hand. The screen lock key and volume toggle are on the right. These buttons have good profiles, making them a cinch to find without looking. Travel and feedback is good. The SIM and memory card tray is on the left edge. The X2 Mini supports either two nano SIM cards, which means you can have two accounts/numbers associated with the phone if you want, or one SIM and one microSD card. The 3.5mm headphone jack is on top and the microUSB (no USB-C) port is on the bottom.
Blu pressed the rear panel's metal into a nice shape. The phone is at its thickest in the middle and tapers a bit towards the sides. As mentioned above, the metal accents, metal shell, and plastic end caps all work well together. The Mini's rear shell is sealed on tight. That means the X2 Mini doesn't provide any sort of access to the battery.
The Blu Life One X2 Mini may be smaller than its older brother, but it's mightier, thanks to some smart design tweaks.
The X2 Mini's screen measures 5.0 inches across the diagonal and includes full HD resolution. I was pleased with the sharpness and clarity of text, icons, and so on. It's hard to go wrong with this size/resolution. The LCD panel puts out plenty of light for indoor use, but outdoor viewability could be better. Viewing angles are average; I didn't see a color shift when tilting the phone around, but the brightness drops pretty significantly. It's more than adequate for a sub-$200 phone.
Blu sells the X2 Mini unlocked. The phone is compatible with LTE Bands 2, 4, 7, 12, and 17, which means it works with AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. It would be nice if it supported bands 5, 29, 30, and 66, but these aren't essential for basic connectivity. I tested the X2 Mini on AT&T's network in and around New York City. The phone performed about on par with other unlocked phones I've evaluated in recent months. Phone calls connected on the first attempt, and the X2 Mini didn't miss any calls nor drop any (even at highway speeds).
Data speeds were fine, but not the fastest I've seen. I didn't run in any issues with standard comm apps, like email or social networks. Streaming music via Spotify and video via YouTube worked best if I dialed back the quality a bit.
The X2 Mini is an average voice phone. The earpiece delivers plenty of volume for use in and around your home or office. You do have to turn it all the way up to hear calls in a moving car or on city streets. Voice clarity ranges from decent to very good. I heard some distortion on occasion, though the majority of calls were clear. People I spoke to through the X2 Mini said I sounded good.
The speakerphone is not quite as loud as I hoped. I had no trouble hearing speakerphone calls at home, but in the car or walking around New York City required me to crank it. Music, ringers, and alerts can all be loud enough to get your attention. The vibrate alert is powerful enough to get your attention when the phone is in your pants, but not when it is in a winter jacket pocket.
The X2 Mini's smaller screen doesn't do enough to offset the 25% drop in battery capacity when compared to the X2. The 2,300 mAh power cell in the Mini is just barely adequate. It gets the phone from breakfast to bedtime, but with no power to spare. It's always gasping for breath before my last TV show of the evening runs out. That's under light usage. Toss in any battery-draining activities such as gaming or YouTube and the phone will be more apt to konk out just after dinner.
Thankfully the X2 Mini supports rapid charging via Quick Charge 3.0. Plug the phone in for just 30 minutes and you'll net a huge 80% charge. Even better, the phone includes a fast charger in the box.
Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi
I saw perfectly normal performance from the X2 Mini's Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi radios over the course of a week.
The X2 Mini's Bluetooth radio has no trouble finding and connecting to other nearby device. Calls made via my car's hands-free system worked perfectly and sounded pretty decent. Music sounded just so-so via my favorite pair of headphones. The WiFi worked well.
The phone's GPS radio was consistent. It was able to find me in about 10 seconds and resolved my location to within about 20 feet. It didn't exhibit any lag or speed issues when used as a real-time navigation device.
The X2 Mini doesn't have NFC.
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